Impact COVID-19 on Belgian business immigration : measures to ensure continuity of service for work/single permit applications

In Belgium the regional Ministries of Flanders, Brussels, and Wallonia receive and process work authorizations/work permits (these are the final permits for employment up to 90 days; these are the first permits for employment > 90 days: a single permit approval, issued by the Belgian federal immigration office, follows at a later stage).

The regional Ministries have taken a number of urgent measures to ensure continuity of service and to deal with a number of urgent problems resulting from the stricter Covid-19 measures which are currently in place in Belgium. We briefly outline the measures below.

A. Flanders region

1. Application via email

IMPLICATION? In order to continue to ensure the processing of the applications and to deliver the permits on time, the Flanders Ministry asks to submit the applications by email (aanvraag.arbeidskaart@vlaanderen.be) as much as possible, instead of registered mail. This applies to both work and single permit applications.

2. Temporary extension of residence and work authorization/work permit for employees who cannot return to their home country (max. 3 months): expedited work authorization/work permit application

IMPLICATION? If a third-country national is temporarily unable to return to his/her home country (e.g. because flight has been cancelled), his/her stay will be temporarily extended. The employer can apply for a work authorization/work permit so that the employee can continue to work during his/her temporary stay.

3. Long-term extension application (> 3 months): single permit application

IMPLICATION? Anyone who will reside in Belgium for a period of > 3 months for work purposes must apply for a (renewal of the) single permit. As a matter of fact, the temporary work authorization/work permit (see point 2 above) cannot be renewed. The “normal” single permit application process will apply.

4. Incomplete applications will not be declared inadmissible after 15 days

IMPLICATION? When a file is considered incomplete, additional information is requested: if this information is not submitted within 15 days, the application will in principle be considered inadmissible and the application will no longer be processed: the file will be closed.

There is some leniency now because it can be difficult to receive/obtain some documents to submit a complete application in time. The Flanders Ministry understands this situation and therefore will not automatically close the file after 15 days. For the time being and “until the end of the Corona-problems”, these files will remain “open”, in order to allow the employer extra time to collect the necessary documents.

5. Periods of temporary unemployment shall be taken into account in the calculation of the salary threshold

IMPLICATION? Anyone who is unable to provide services/work due to temporary unemployment for economic reasons or “force majeure” should not comply with the applicable salary threshold during this period (e.g. for highly skilled or executive personnel).

In the event of “technical unemployment” the execution of an employment contract is temporarily suspended. The gross annual salary threshold (42.696 € for highly skilled and 68.314 € for executives) will be reduced pro rata with the relevant period of technical unemployment. This is regardless of whether the person concerned receives an allowance from the National Employment Office for reasons of temporary unemployment.

B. Brussels region

1. Application via email

IMPLICATION? The Brussels Ministry is physically closed. All applications for obtaining work permits and single permits should be submitted digitally via email (arbeid.eco@gob.brussels or travail.eco@sprb.brussels). The original documents must be kept, and may be asked by the authorities later.

2. Temporary extension of residence and work authorization/work permit for employees who cannot return to their home country (max. 3 months): work authorization/work permit application

IMPLICATION? If a third-country national is temporarily unable to return to his/her home country (e.g. because flight has been cancelled), his/her stay will be temporarily extended. The employer can apply for a work authorization/work permit so that the employee can continue to work during his/her temporary stay.

3. Periods of temporary unemployment shall probably be taken into account in the calculation of the salary threshold

IMPLICATION? Anyone who is unable to provide services/work due to temporary unemployment for economic reasons or “force majeure” cannot comply with the applicable salary threshold during this period (e.g. for highly skilled or executive personnel).

In the event of “technical unemployment” the execution of an employment contract is temporarily suspended. The Brussels Ministry announces that they will be lenient regarding the gross annual salary threshold (42.869 € for highly skilled and 71.521 € for executives) and that they will take into account the exceptional situation, provided a clear motivation/explanation, preferably with proof (e.g. National Employment Office certificate), will be provided.

C. Walloon region

All applications for obtaining work permits and single permits should be submitted digitally via email (permisdetravail.entreprises@spw.wallonie.be). The original documents must be kept, and may be asked by the authorities later.